Thursday, February 20, 2014

February Topic: How much grain for a dairy goat?

While good quality forages are usually adequate, goats may sometimes need supplemental feeding, especially if they are producing high volumes of milk or during the winter. Goats need a proper balance of energy in the form of roughage or grain, as well as protein, vitamins, minerals, and clean water. Protein and energy requirements vary, depending on the type of goat and its stage of production. Dairy goats need both high-quality forage and supplemental grain to reach their full potential, especially during peak lactation or growth.

Goats can be picky eaters, and they may not immediately accept new feeds. Any feed changes should be made gradually to avoid upsetting the rumen microbes. Feeding very high levels of grain can also upset the rumen. Grain should never be more than 50% of the total diet, except for heavily-producing dairy goats. Table 2 gives guidelines for balancing protein requirements when utilizing pasture, hay and grain supplementation. Here are some general “rules of thumb” for supplementing lactating does:
  1. Start the doe on grain a month before kidding and have her consuming about 1.5 pounds of grain by the time she kids. This allows the rumen organisms to slowly adapt.
  2. After kidding, increase grain slowly to about 3 pounds per day by 4 weeks post-kidding.
  3. After peak lactation, feed according to milk production. Feed 0.5 pound of grain for every pound of milk over 3 pounds milk per day, along with good quality forage. For example, a goat producing 8 pounds a day would get all the good forage she could eat plus 2.5 pounds (8 – 3 = 5 lb. x 0.5 lb feed/lb milk) of grain, split into two feedings.
  4. Try not to feed a doe more than 4 pounds of grain per day (Smith, 1994).
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